By Ernie Palladino
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Spring training provides the stuff that dreams are made of, whether you’re a kid off the street taking his big shot, or a Grade-A prospect hoping to exceed your club’s expectations and make the big leagues right out of camp.
The Mets have provided us with tangible examples of both in the persons of Zack Wheeler and Andy Wells.
Wheeler is destined for the show, anyway. It’s just a matter of when he gets there, not if. But his 30-pitch, live batting practice performance Wednesday could be the first indication that perhaps those in the organization who have him destined to spend Opening Day in Triple-A are wrong.
The righty flame-thrower apparently was impressive enough, or at least provided enough expectations, for David Wright and Ike Davis to interrupt their own work to see what all the fuss was about.
Indeed, veteran players were wowed by the ease of motion with which the 22-year-old tossed his 95 MPH fastball. Even better yet, Terry Collins was impressed about how Wheeler handled the gravity of facing big-league hitters for the first time. It wasn’t too big for him, and that’s huge in and of itself. For some solid evidence, look at how the currently-injured Phil Hughes handled things in his first couple of years as The Next Best Thing.
Not very well.
Does a 30-pitch outing translate into a spot in the Mets’ rotation? Of course not. But the kid shows signs. If he continues to indicate he’s got the smarts, the poise, and the stuff, he could force the powers that be to alter their timetable.
“He’s the real deal,” Collins said. “And it tells me there’s a tremendous light at the end of the tunnel here.”
Now head over to the other end of the spectrum. For Andy Wells, just getting an invite to a minor league camp is a huge milestone. The 24-year-old right-hander, a Wagner College product, has bounced around independent ball the past three years. Don’t worry. You don’t know him. A guy just doesn’t earn a big rep playing for folks like the Evansville Otters of the Frontier League or the Atlantic League’s York Revolution.
Yet, the Mets just signed him to a minor league contract. He showed enough beating the independent bushes to get his shot.
He has virtually no shot at making the 40-man roster this year. But if he shows enough, who knows what he might do in his first opportunity with a major league affiliate.
Strange things happen in baseball. Why shouldn’t something good happen for him?
Wheeler’s time may already have arrived. Wells’ chance lies at his feet.
And Mets fans can fantasize about great futures for both players — the stud and the underdog — and their hard-times franchise.
That’s what spring training is about. It‘s a chance to dream.
We all know the line: Hope springs eternal in spring training. Are you feeling the vibes, Mets fans? Let us know in the comments…